Come for the bats, stay for Zach Britton and back-end fantasy arms.
The Orioles racked up 96 wins—good for second place in the AL—and a trip to the ALCS behind a solid offense, a strong core of starting pitchers and one of the better bullpens in baseball, allowing the third fewest runs in the American League. Their lineup is full of fantasy stars, with Adam Jones anchoring the team and current free agent Nelson Cruz leading the league in home runs. Add in Manny Machado’s tantalizing upside, Chris Davis’ bounce-back potential, and J.J. Hardy’s contributions from the offense-bereft shortstop position and there is a wealth of options to be had here. The O’s only managed to rank sixth in the AL in runs scored, but their offense is where people will look first for impact talent.
Pitching is a bit of a different story, as no one on their staff merits a high-round pick, though there is a lot of depth. Closer Zach Britton is the closest thing to an impact fantasy arm they have right now, but the rotation is a Kevin Gausman breakout or Dylan Bundy promotion away from an impact starter. Chris Tillman, Bud Norris, and Wei-Yin Chen provide solid numbers to go with bulk innings, but none profiles toward the top of any fantasy rotation. Let’s take a deeper dive into the Orioles fantasy prospects below.
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Which managers stood out for their ability to get their best pitchers in the biggest situations this year?
Remember that time when Buck Showalter was being lauded as an on-field tactician far superious to his opponents in the ALDS and ALCS? I do. Much of that praise was heaped on Showalter for his deft use of his bullpen, putting guys like Andrew Miller, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton in high-leverage spots. Before we go anointing Buck the bullpen whisperer, we should take a look at this:
Charting Brian Roberts' rise and fall with a trip through the BP archives.
You might never cheer for a team with a second baseman better than Brian Roberts was in 2005. His career ends on a sadder note, a half-decade ruined by injuries. In honor of his career, we're reprinting all 14 comments written about him for the BP Annual, from the first in 2001 ("after having surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow") through last winter's ("myriad injuries have limited..."). Enjoy.
The Royals go for the sweep while the Giants attempt to take a commanding 3-1 lead in two series that have certainly not lacked in drama.
It may be an evenly matched series with games going down to final few at-bats, but that doesn't change the fact that the Royals have a commanding 3-0 lead are looking to finish off the sweep at home on Wednesday afternoon.
A look at one game in the life of the Royals' supposed weak spot.
Recap: The Orioles jumped ahead but only by a run, Jeremy Guthrie was better than expected, the Royals erased the lead in the middle innings, jumped out ahead in the sixth, their defense and bullpen shut things down from the seventh on, and the Royals are up three games to none. In a postgame press conference, Guthrie took to wearing a taunting shirt based on the worst, I mean really the worst pop song of the year. He can get away with it because the Royals are about to go to the World Series and everybody except the Orioles and a few Angels fans is happy about it. Considering it was a 2-1 game in an LCS, it wasn’t all that interesting of a game. Lorenzo Cain made a nice catch. Mike Moustakas made a nice catch. Some more people on Twitter made Wil Myers jokes. Home sweep home, how sweep it is, ain't glove the sweepest thing, from the outhouse to the penthouse sweep. That’s the recap. Forgive me if I’m not inspired to do more, strict-recapwise.
The emergence of Andrew Miller was a slow burn that happened right in front of us. How much should we have seen coming?
Where the Tigers and Dodgers and Nationals and A's have failed this offseason, the Orioles haven't, and won't, because their manager can call for Andrew Miller. The 2014 postseason has been a tragic and entertaining reminder that bullpens are in fact important, and that elite bullpens—or at least bullpens that perform elitely—can cover for other deficiencies on a roster. Miller has arguably been the best reliever so far this postseason, which shouldn’t come as a surprise unless you opted to not watch any baseball over the previous seven months.
The Fightin' Showalters against the Yosts with the Mosts.
Since 2000, only one AL team has won fewer games than the Baltimore Orioles. Think you can guess who that team is? Answer at the bottom of th-- nah, just kidding, you know who it is. So here they are in the ALCS, and one will go to the World Series. No team in this century plays like the Royals do, so any matchup will be an odd pairing, but this one in particular pits two teams with different philosophies, different strategies, different offensive approaches, different men at the helm. Except neither team draws any walks. Admit it: That's not the worst thing in the world at a time of the season when games start pushing four hours for no good reason at all. Here's how the showdown shapes up:
What makes a moment slow-motionable? What makes a moment made for soft focus and sepia? What will make you cry this month? It's complicated.
Throughout the playoffs, sportswritin' fella Miles Wray will be writing for us about the production of postseason baseball. What Miles takes that vague phrase to mean will be as much of a surprise to me as it will be to you. Here’s his first piece.
Octoberness, along with all of playoff baseball, is something just slightly separate from regular baseball; not necessarily better or worse so much as easier to recall, easier to retell, easier to manipulate. Regular baseball is feeling your arms sunburn as the losing manager slowly strolls out to pull another reliever in an 8-2 game. Octoberness is David Ortiz launching a ball over the Monstah at midnight, his breath misting in the air as he rounds the bases. Regular baseball is Aramis Ramirez. Octoberness is David Freese.